British IS fighters 'The Beatles' captured in Syria

8 February 2018, 19:31

Two British Islamic State fighters - part of a group nicknamed The Beatles - have been captured in Syria, US officials say.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were detained by Kurdish forces in Syria and have reportedly revealed "valuable information" on the IS leadership and structure.

The Londoners were the last members of the group of four Britons who are believed to have tortured and beheaded dozens of people.

British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines, and American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were among their suspected victims - beheaded in brutal videos released on the internet.

The group, which also included "Jihadi John" Mohammed Emwazi and Aine Davis, was nicknamed The Beatles because of their English accents.

Ringleader Emwazi was killed in a drone strike in 2015 and Davis is in jail in Turkey after being convicted last year on terrorism charges.

The US government believes the group beheaded more than 27 hostages and used torture methods such as waterboarding and electrocution.

:: IS defector: I saw 'Jihadi John' kill hostage

Kotey and Elsheikh were captured in early January by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, said an American defence official.

A statement confirmed they were suspected of the "detention, exploitation and execution of Western detainees...and are thought to have links to the British terrorist often called Jihadi John".

The pair were handed over to US special forces, according to the New York Times, with their identities confirmed using fingerprints and other measurements.

Under interrogation they gave up "valuable information" on Islamic State's remaining leadership and structure, the newspaper reported.

Elsheikh, 29, is a former child refugee from Sudan who lived in White City, west London.

He is "said to have earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions, and crucifixions" while serving as jailer for IS , the US State Department said.

Elsheikh travelled to Syria in 2012 and first joined al Qaeda's branch in the war-torn country.

His father, Rashid Sidahmed Elsheikh, a translator in London, told The Guardian his son's radicalisation was "lightning fast".

His mother, Maha Elgigouli, told Buzzfeed he was a "very clever" and "nice boy" who worked as a mechanic before his transformation into a jihadist.

She said he had a daughter called Maha with a Syrian wife, and his first wife, an Ethopian woman from Canada, had joined them and had a son named after his brother Mahmoud, who died fighting for IS in Iraq last year.

Kotey, 34, from Paddington, was born in London and is reportedly a Queens Park Rangers fan.

The terrorist is believed to have helped recruit other Britons to fight for IS, which has been driven out of its Syria strongholds.

He "likely engaged in the group's executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electronic shock and waterboarding", as a guard for the cell, according to the State Department.

Kotey also acted as a recruiter for IS and is responsible for recruiting several UK nationals to join the terrorist organisation.

Emwazi, who appeared in black in the infamous beheading videos, was born in Kuwait and moved to the UK with his family when was six.

He went to state schools, then studied computer science at the University of Westminster before leaving for Syria in 2013.

The fourth member of the group, Aine Davis, is a former drug dealer.

In May 2017, he was jailed for seven and a half years by a Turkish court for being part of a terror organisation.

All four Britons are understood to have grown up in the same part of west London, but it is unclear whether they knew each other before they left for Syria.